A PLEDGE to improve crisis care for people with mental health problems and stop them from being locked up in police cells has been supported by Dorset's Police Crime Commissioner.

The Mental Health Concordat, unveiled today, is an agreement between police, mental health trusts and paramedics stating that police custody should not be used because mental health services are not available.

Statistics show that 36 per cent of people sectioned under the Mental Health Act are placed in police cells, but the pledge challenges local services to ensure that services are always available for patients who need them urgently.

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said that he welcomes the multi-agency agreement, which has been signed by a number of national organisations.

“Police and Crime Commissioners have led a vigorous campaign to ensure that detainees and victims of crime with mental health problems receive the right care, at the right time and in the right place,” he added.

“In Dorset, in keeping with several other areas of the country, we have a pilot street triage scheme to improve mental health care for those in crisis launching in a few weeks' time. We also have a Liaison and Diversion pilot in our custody suites.”

Health officials said they hope that the agreement will half the number of people inappropriately detained in police cells by next year after it was revealed 8,667 people were detained in England in 2011/12.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “When someone has a mental health crisis, it is distressing and frightening for them as well as the people around them.

“Urgent and compassionate care in a safe place is essential - a police cell should never need to be used because mental health services are not available.”